Why should I care about Federal records?
It's in your interest. Records help you find the information you
need to do your job, document your accomplishments, and help you
avoid embarrassment, litigation, loss of security clearance,
dismissal from Federal service, or prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 2701.
Federal records have been the focus of some recent high-profile
media attention and legal or corrective action. Consider:
Properly managed records:
- Allegations that information in possession of intelligence agencies may have altered the course of terrorist activities on September 11, 2001.
- The late discovery of misplaced FBI records resulting in a temporary stay of execution for Timothy McVeigh in 2001.
- The ongoing litigation in Cobell v. U.S. in which the plaintiffs argue that the Department of Interior's records management practices contributed to the mismanagement of the Individual Indian Monies (IIM) Trust.
- Protect democratic values and the rights of citizens and ensure Government accountability.
- Save the government money by operating more efficiently.
- Ensure accountability to the Congress and the public.
What are Federal records?
Federal records are:
- Documentary material, regardless of physical form (paper, electronic, audiovisual, etc.)
- Made or received by an agency of the Government and,
- Useful as evidence of agency functions, organizations or activities.
- Are often on different media and in various formats.
- Letters, memos, completed forms, reports, maps
- Databases, email, spreadsheets, geographic information systems
- Audio and video recordings
- Photographic prints and negatives
How can I be sure that my records are managed properly?
Start right and the rest is easy.
- Separate Federal records and personal files. Most will be Federal.
- Keep Federal records for as long as you are required. This information is found in NARA-authorized instructions to agencies, available from your agency's records officer.
- Ensure that the staff members you supervise are also managing their records correctly.
How do I know if any of my files contain Federal records?
If you answer "yes" to any of the following questions, the
document is probably a Federal record.
- Did you receive this document as a result of your Federal position?
- Did you create or use this document to conduct or facilitate agency business?
- Did you distribute this document to others?
- Did you put the document in an agency file?
- Did you need to refer to this document later to conduct government business?
Can I throw away records in my office?
Before you dispose of records, contact your records officer to
make sure the records have a NARA disposition authority.
Unauthorized destruction or removal may result in prosecution
and criminal penalties.
Guidance From The Office of Government Ethics: